PROVO Less than 30 seconds into overtime of his team's semifinal tilt against Uintah, Park City junior Austen Stevens had one thing on his mind in the brief moment that elapsed after right back Wes Uribe crossed the ball towards him and before it arrived at his feet.
"I did not want it to go to a penalty shootout, and I was just determined to get a goal before it went to that," said Stevens.
As has been the case on so many occasions this spring, Stevens didn't flinch when an opportunity presented itself.
The junior forward swept home Uribe's picture-perfect cross from the right at the near post in the 81st minute, and third-ranked Park City emerged with a 1-0 overtime over Uintah Friday evening at Timpview High.
Stevens' goal capped what had been a fantastic team effort by Park City from start to finish, and the Miners now head to the 3A title game like so many Park City teams before them have.
"It's awesome," said Stevens, who has 15 goals this season. "I can't even describe it. I'm still in shock right now. I played that game for the seniors; it would be awesome if we took state."
Park City will face No. 5 Morgan at 2:30 p.m. today at Timpview High to determine the 3A champion.
The Miners had been stifled by poor finishing for 80 minutes of regulation, but it took Stevens just 30 seconds in overtime to wipe away all the normal-time frustration.
Uribe made a run down the right flank and whipped a cross toward the near post, where Stevens latched onto the ball and swept it into the net.
"It all started with Wes, his amazing cross, his amazing run," said Stevens. "He set it up, definitely."
Before then, a combination of poor finishing, solid Uintah defending, smart goalkeeping by Uintah goalie Kevin Hacking and bad luck all prevented Park City from scoring.
"They didn't believe it when regular-time finished," said Park City coach Caro Caro, "and they looked at each other, and I'm like, 'Guys, it happens. It's just a matter of time."'
Uintah made its way to the semifinals by stunning top-ranked Logan in a shootout in the opening round before knocking off Hurricane in the quarters. For a while against Park City, particularly near the end of the second half, it appeared the Utes' magical run might extend all the way to the state final.
In the end though, Stevens' strike ended that possibility and was enough to overcome what had been an outstanding collective performance by the Utes.
"They definitely have a lot of heart, and they always put up a good fight against us," Stevens said of Uintah. "They have a lot of good players; they're a good team."
Uintah star Derek Bunderson drew deserved praise all season for his fantastic abilities, and Uintah's backline, anchored by Daniel Gurr, was singled out after the Utes knocked off top-ranked Logan in the opening round. However, what was clear in the semifinal round was that every player in a Uintah uniform played extremely hard, from the 11 starters to anyone who came off the bench.
"By far, this is a bunch of kids that deserve a lot of recognition," said Uintah coach Jared McKeachnie, whose team improved tremendously over the course of the season."Just an outstanding bunch of kids very, very proud of them. They're gonna do well in life because of that."
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